Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens

Martin Gilens, Benjamin I. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics-which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism-offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages564-581
Number of pages18
JournalPerspectives on Politics
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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economic elite
pluralism
interest group
elite
citizen
politics
domination
democracy
multivariate analysis
government policy
empirical research
public policy
Group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

Cite this

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Testing theories of American politics : Elites, interest groups, and average citizens. / Gilens, Martin; Page, Benjamin I.

In: Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 12, No. 3, 01.01.2014, p. 564-581.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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